1st Edition

Prophets and Profits Ancient Divination and Its Reception

Edited By Richard Evans Copyright 2018
    268 Pages
    by Routledge

    268 Pages
    by Routledge

    This volume examines the ways in which divination, often through oracular utterances and other mechanisms, linked mortals with the gods, and places the practice within the ancient sociopolitical and religious environment. Whether humans sought knowledge by applying to an oracle through which the god was believed to speak or used soothsayers who interpreted specific signs such as the flight of birds, there was a fundamental desire to know the will of the gods. In many cases, pragmatic concerns – personal, economic or political – can be deduced from the context of the application.

    Divination and communication with the gods in a post-pagan world has also produced fascinating receptions. The presentation of these processes in monotheistic societies such as early Christian Late Antiquity (where the practice continued through the use of curse tablets) or medieval Europe, and beyond, where the role of religion had changed radically, provides a particular challenge and this topic has been little discussed by scholars. This volume aims to rectify this desideratum by providing the opportunity to address questions related to the reception of Greco-Roman divination, oracles and prophecy, in all media, including literature and film.

    Several contributions in this volume originated in the 2015 Classics Colloquium held at the University of South Africa and the volume has been augmented with additional contributions.

    Chapter 1: Introduction

    Daniel Ogden

    Chapter 2: Was Didyma (Branchidae) a False Prophet?

    Richard Evans

    Chapter 3: ‘Who Wrote Greek Curse Tablets?’

    Olivier Dufault

    Chapter 4: A Story of Blood, Guts and Guesswork: Synthetic Reasoning in Classical Greek Divination

    Ralph Anderson

    Chapter 5: Value-Added Divination at Dodona

    Philip Bosman

    Chapter 6: Divination and Profit in the Roman World

    Federico Santangelo

    Chapter 7: Profiting from Prophecy: Q. Marcius Rex and the Construction of the Aqua Marcia

    Alex Nice

    Chapter 8: Valerius Maximus and the Language of Stars

    Jeffrey Murray

    Chapter 9: "Arrows Fletched from Our Own Wings": Discovering a ‘Delphi of the Mind’ in the Writings of the Early Church Fathers

    Daniel Crosby

    Chapter 10: Egyptian Necromancy in Heliodorus Aethiopica (6.12-15) and The Witch of Endor Narrative (1 Sam 28)

    John Hilton

    Chapter 11: Sosipatra: Prophetess, Philosopher and Theurgist: Reflections on Divination and Epistemology in Late Antiquity

    Crystal Addey

    Chapter 12: One Oracle too Many? Corippus and Procopius on Female Prophecy in North Africa

    Martine de Marre

    Chapter 13: Deconstructing Divination: Superstition, Anticlericalism, and Cicero’s De Divinatione in Enlightenment England

    Katherine East

    Chapter 14: Prophecy and Paul Kruger: Robert Grendon’s Appropriation of Greco-Roman Prophets and Prophetic Devices in his South African Epic, Paul Kruger’s Dream

    Szerdi Nagy

    Chapter 15: Cassandra Prophesies Back: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Firebrand

    Elke Steinmeyer


    Richard Evans has taught at the Universities of South Africa and Cardiff. His research has focused on the political and military history of Greece and Rome, and the ancient topography of Sicily and Magna Graecia. He is currently an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies at the University of South Africa.